In a press release, Wave Computing has announced that the MIPS ISA will be opening up and will be free of any licensing or royalty fees with full access to its patents. This announcement covers both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions. MIPS is a reduced instruction set computer (RISC) instruction set architecture (ISA) often used in embedded systems, but has been originally designed for general purpose computing. Since 2000, an estimated 8.5 billion CPUs with MIPS cores have been shipped, by a broad range of companies. The goal of this change is for participants using MIPS to promote the architectue through providing full access to the most recent versions of the 32-bit and 64-bit MIPS ISA free of charge. The program, called MIPS Open program, will be cover hundreds of MIPS' patents, with no licensing or royalty fees.
Debian developer Jonathan Carter was recently given a MIPS64-based motherboard which he ran through its paces. The board has a Loongson processor which is intended for both general purpose and embedded processing.
The reason why I wanted this board is that I don't have access to any MIPS64 hardware whatsoever, and it can be really useful for getting Calamares to run properly on MIPS64 on Debian. Calamares itself builds fine on this platform, but calamares-settings-debian will only work on amd64 and i386 right now (where it will either install grub-efi or grub-pc depending in which mode you booted, otherwise it will crash during installation). I already have lots of plans for the Bullseye release cycle (and even for Calamares specifically), so I'm not sure if I'll get there but I'd like to get support for mips64 and arm64 into calamares-settings-debian for the bullseye release. I think it's mostly just a case of detecting the platforms properly and installing/configuring the right bootloaders. Hopefully it's that simple.
In the meantime, I decided to get to know this machine a bit better. I'm curious how it could be useful to me otherwise. All its expansion ports definitely seems interesting. First I plugged it into my power meter to check what power consumption looks like. According to this, it typically uses between 7.5W and 9W and about 8.5W on average.
The Loongson processors are developed at the Institute of Computing Technology (ICT) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in China in conjunction with the BLX IC Design Corporation, also in China.
Earlier on SN:
Is Low-Priced Computing Stuck With an ARM/x86 Duopoly? (2019)
MIPS CPU Architecture to Become Open Source Hardware in 2019 (2018)
Linux-Based, MIPS-Powered Russian All-in-One PC Launched (2016)